LAFAYETTE, La. (KLFY) — Officials from the La. Secretary of State’s Office tell News 10 that Lafayette City Judge Michelle Odinet’s resignation has been officially received, which means the next step involves calling a special election.
Louisiana law requires a special election to be called if the person resigning has more than 12 months remaining in their term. Odinet took office in 2021. Gov. John Bel Edwards will have to issue a proclamation calling for the special election, and Louisiana law states he must choose an upcoming gubernatorial or congressional election date for that special election, if one is available.
In this case, 2022 has a senatorial race later this year, which means the most likely dates for the special election for Odinet’s seat under the law will be a Nov. 8 primary and a Dec. 10 general election. Qualifying for that election will take place July 20-22.
The Louisiana Supreme Court has appointed retired St. Landry Parish Assistant District Attorney and Opelousas City Court Judge Vanessa Harris to the bench in Odinet’s stead. In doing so, they have also appointed Lafayette’s first Black city judge. Harris will remain on the bench until the special election is concluded.
Odinet was suspended by the Supreme Court on Dec. 17 after a video surfaced of her and her family members using racial slurs. The slurs were referring to a man who had allegedly attempted to break into one of Odinet’s vehicles, and the video showed the family members using the slurs while watching surveillance video of the incident.
Within days of the video’s leak, many local officials condemned Odinet, including Gov. John Bel Edwards, who publicly called for her resignation. Odinet was out of the country during most of the scandal that followed but eventually accepted full responsibility for the video and the comments made within.